In 1958, the Brooklyn Dodgers jilted me and the entire borough of Brooklyn by heading west to the promise of a new ballpark and all the gold in California. Dem Bums were my boyhood favorite team, but I chose not to follow them to Los Angeles. For the first time since I started following baseball in the early 50s, I was without a team and feeling abandoned by my first baseball love.
As I looked around for a team to follow in 1959, Elroy Face caught my eye as he worked his way toward an 18-1 season (17-0 at one point) out of the bullpen. Because I was a pitcher, I was hooked, and the Pittsburgh Pirates became my team for the 1959, 1960 and 1961 seasons. Houston’s entry into the National League coaxed me away from the Pirates in 1962, and the Colt .45s/Astros have been my only team through the 2012 season.
The Astros are about to jilt me too, however, as they prepare to move into the despised (by me) American League. The Pirates are trying to win me back, and I look forward to this series as the Pirates’ audition of sorts to be my team in 2013. Wandy Rodriguez is a Pirate now so what’s not to like?
Minute Maid Park
July 26-29, 2012
Elizabeth is a beautiful name. I picked the name for my daughter several years before she was born, and she is the second child her mother and I adopted from the Edna Gladney Home in Fort Worth. Born on July 24, 1982, Elizabeth came to our home in Austin twelve days later to join Mark, her mother and me. Most of my friends know Mark well; he and I are together frequently, and they are with him at local sporting events, beer halls, spring training games or my house. Mark has been as much my friend as my son, and he never caused his parents worry or difficulty. My friends do not know Elizabeth well because she has not been around them much. This is her story.
From the very beginning, Elizabeth was a handful. Sleeping through the night was not something she did. Colicky and fussy, she demanded and received our attention each night, and she let us know each day that she was a strong-willed girl and someone to be reckoned with. She remains so to this day. Her mother was thrilled to have a daughter, and Mark loved being a big brother. I looked forward eagerly to the day when “sugar and spice and everything nice” and “Daddy’s girl” kicked in, and all of us believed that our family was complete.
Elizabeth was a very loving child who was eager to please her parents, her teachers and other adults. She worked hard to make good grades in school, and she participated in Brownies, piano lessons, dance classes, gymnastics, band, school plays, basketball, soccer and kickball. She was among the best at everything. Successful and never in trouble at school, Elizabeth was popular with her teachers and classmates. She loved her family fiercely and adored her big brother. At home she rarely was in trouble, but sometimes she operated on a pleasure and pain system. If she wanted to do something and both her parents said no, she did it anyway and accepted her punishment. Perhaps a warning bell should have gone off, but none did for me. We smiled, said, “That’s Elizabeth,” and thought each time she had learned her lesson.
Elizabeth was the perfect child for me. She was a superb natural athlete who mastered every game or sport she attempted, and she combined her talent with an outstanding work ethic. She loved to practice, by herself if there was no one else around, and she often asked me to play catch or to shoot baskets or to hit volleyballs with her. I loved her and loved doing these things with her. By the time she finished middle school, Elizabeth was one of the best athletes in the city at basketball, volleyball and kickball (a highly competitive sport in Austin for schoolgirls and adults). At McCallum High School, she also played softball for the first time and had varsity-level skills as a 9th grader. I thought she had college scholarship potential in basketball, volleyball and softball, and I was convinced that her desire to excel at sports would motivate her to stay out of trouble so that she could continue to play. I had no concerns about her behavior entering high school.
All games are on FS-H. You are going to watch this? Really?
Unbeknownst to me or to her mother, Elizabeth had begun experimenting with drugs during the 8th grade. She told me years later about smoking marijuana in our backyard. To this day, I do not know the extent of her early drug use, but she remained very successful academically and athletically through her freshman year at McCallum. As a freshman, she played volleyball and softball, made the Blue Brigade (the school’s dance/drill team) and was on the A and B honor roll each grading period. She appeared to be well-adjusted and happy. Surprisingly, she did not play basketball, but I was not concerned because she told me she wanted to concentrate on volleyball. She played select volleyball also, and she seemed about to emerge as a superstar at McCallum.
My world turned upside down during Elizabeth’s sophomore year. Mark was away from home living in a dorm at the University of Texas, and we all missed him, especially Elizabeth. I was excited about the opportunity to spend more time with her, and I hoped our relationship would become as close as mine with Mark. Elizabeth’s year started great: she was a star setter for the JV volleyball team, she was honored as Dancer of the Week by the Blue Brigade, she worked hard at her activities and her schoolwork, and she made the highest grades she ever made during the first six-weeks grading period. Her volleyball coach told me that she was “really starting to take off as a person.” Her future appeared brighter than ever before, but by Christmas, our lives had fallen apart, and Elizabeth began a downward spiral that would last many years.
Adolescent hormones and stresses hammered Elizabeth and wreaked havoc on our family. Peer pressure and drugs accelerated her demise. Adopted females often have a difficult emotional adjustment, and she had the added difficulty of a juvenile diabetes diagnosis at age 10. Diabetes caused high blood sugar episodes, and they exacerbated whatever emotions she was experiencing. These factors together with the hormones of adolescence created a perfect storm of rebellion. Her decline and fall was classic: her friends changed from highly-motivated athletes and good students to dropouts and others we did not know; instead of getting up and dressed for her 7:30 a.m. drill team practice, she became almost impossible to wake up; she often was late to her practice or missed it entirely; her grades declined; rumors of her drug use reached us; she skipped school; she never quit a team during its season, but she dropped volleyball and drill team from her activities; and she refused to participate in softball.
Elizabeth’s rebellion blindsided me. Her mother and I were beside ourselves with worry and fear, and I was desperate to reach her somehow to influence her to remember the star she was becoming only a few short weeks ago. I spoke many words to her on the way to school or in her room, with predictable lack of results. I wrote her long letters concerning various aspects of her life, behavior, opportunities, future and my hopes and dreams for her. I tried to offer ideas for her consideration rather than to preach or to command specific actions. She read these letters and kept them, but there was no dramatic, or even discernable, change in her.
Thursday, July 26
7:05 p.m. CDT
A. J. Burnett (11-3, 3.59 ERA) v. Dallas Keuchel (1-2, 4.03 ERA)
Friday, July 27
7:05 p.m. CDT
TBA v. Jordan Lyles (2-7, 5.50 ERA)
Saturday, July 28
6:05 p.m. CDT
TBA v. TBA
Sunday, July 29
1:05 p.m. CDT
TBA v. Lucas Harrell (7-7, 4.07 ERA)
Our home life became a hostile battleground between Elizabeth and her mother. For many years she had been extremely close to her mother, but Elizabeth began separating emotionally from her. The literature says this separation is normal, but she also rebelled vigorously against her mother, me and her diabetes. She stopped taking care of her body, her blood sugar often was out of control, and angry fights and disobedience were the norm. I hated to come home after work, and both wife and daughter repeatedly called me with tales about what awful act the other had committed. Our counselor asked me to take over dealing with Elizabeth because her mother could not handle the emotional stress. Welcome to my private room in Hell.
At 16, Elizabeth fell in love for the first time and brought him home to meet us. He was a 21-year-old punk with no job, and he was on probation for a drug offense. We tried hard to be nice to him because we feared if we forbade her from seeing him, she would marry him. He rejected our efforts to help him, however, and eventually he tried to get her to run away with him to Florida. Her mom thwarted this effort by getting a police officer there in time, but during an ugly scene in the front yard, Elizabeth pushed her mother in full view of the officer. This resulted in a trip to the juvenile justice center and her first encounter with law enforcement and courts. Because this was her first time in trouble, there were no serious consequences, and we hoped this would be her wake-up call and an impetus to get back on the high-achieving track that still was within her reach.
Instead, Elizabeth threw away her junior year academically, and she did not return to any of the teams or activities in which she participated in previous years at McCallum. She removed the punk boyfriend from her life, thank goodness, but that was the only positive change she made. Her friends were in school, but none were the highly motivated, high achieving students with whom she associated previously. Not coincidentally, her closest friends also were rebellious and sometimes stayed at our house as a refuge from their own unhappy home lives.
After she admitted previous drug use, I became a drug cop at home. I searched her room often, after first telling her that she had no right of privacy in keeping cigarettes, alcohol or drugs in her room. My searches often were “successful,” and she must have tried every substance available at least once. Smoking may be the most destructive single vice a diabetic can pursue, and I found and threw away many packs of cigarettes. Our angry fighting at home diminished somewhat, but Elizabeth did not study and did not care. She failed a semester of Algebra II and had to make it up in summer school. Her other grades dropped but remained passing. Incredibly, at the same time, she made an A in Honors Chemistry because she liked her teacher and wanted to impress him! As her junior year ended, her once-promising future looked bleak, and her graduation from high school very much was in doubt.
Batter vs. Pitcher Matchups
Who cares what happened in the past? The Pirates are better than the Astros right now . . . by a lot! Do not let children under the age of 16 watch this series.
Against what I thought were long odds, Elizabeth turned it around enough during her senior year to graduate from McCallum on time with her class of 2000. During the spring semester, she jointly enrolled in Austin ISD and Austin Community College, which gave her high school and college credit for the six hours at ACC. Taking college courses put her high school graduation at risk, of course, but she passed both college courses with a B. Her success in these courses gave me hope that Elizabeth had returned to a productive path.
Elizabeth decided to begin her college years at Austin Community College, but she did not apply herself in school. She attended ACC for two years, but she dropped many courses and did not complete a degree. She also took online courses from the Art Institute of Dallas but did not complete a certificate or degree there either. Although she is intelligent, she did not appear to have the self-discipline required to be a college student, and thoughts of her getting a degree from any school were not realistic.
My daughter is a very talented person; she is artistic, bright, well-spoken, funny and beautiful. Her best work is often done in a sales position or in any people-oriented setting. During the first few years after high school, she interviewed for and obtained several well-paying, responsible jobs with stable companies such as Dell Computers, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nieman-Marcus. She never lasted long in these jobs because she sabotaged any chance of success by refusing to accept supervision from females, by poor attendance or by inconsistent performance. She bounced from job to job with long periods of unemployment in between.
Early in her independence (she had moved into an apartment at 18), her credit rating was as good as mine, and she was responsible with her finances and her bills. Always dissatisfied with what she had and where she was, Elizabeth decided to move to San Diego, California, with no job and no place to live. Before long, she began asking for money to pay rent and other living expenses, and her excuses for not having the money became more and more creative.
Elizabeth also lived in Dallas and Las Vegas, but her employment was never stable, and her finances became a disaster quickly. She briefly became engaged to a young man from Austin with whom she reconnected in San Diego, but she soon recognized that he was not good for her and wisely broke the engagement. During this wanderlust period, I had an epiphany of sorts and stopped sending her money to pay rent or other expenses she should have been working to pay. We butted heads constantly over money and my refusals. She often was furious at me, but we never became estranged. She never stopped loving me, or I her.
1980s retro cap on Friday and Chris Burke Bobblehead on Saturday (OMG!), but if you go to the games to score giveaway stuff, God help you.
Her 20s are a blur to me now looking back and trying to recall those years. After she left Austin pursuing illusory and unrealistic dreams, our contacts were limited to the occasional phone calls when she needed something from me, usually money. She visited me seldom and preferred her mother’s company to mine because I said no much more frequently. Her mother and I separated and divorced during this time, and our breakup hit Elizabeth very hard. Perhaps because she is adopted, home and family were vitally important to her, and the divorce affected her greatly. Also during this period of her life, I now know, her drug use progressed from occasional and recreational to an addiction.
I do not know when Elizabeth’s drug addiction began. Our infrequent contact during her years living away from Austin made it impossible for me to know, and she hid her drug use from me when we were together. If I asked, she denied any suspicions that I expressed. Even after she moved back to Austin to live with her mother, I saw her rarely. She came to my house for Christmas and Thanksgiving meals but left quickly because she always had other plans. Father’s Day became “will I talk to my daughter?” occasions for me. I usually saw her, and she sometimes brought a card, but she never stayed to hang out with Dad. She had other places to be and other people to see. Finally, on one Father’s Day, I neither saw her nor received a call from her.
Her behavior became unpredictable, irresponsible and often unfathomable. She called to say she was coming over or I expected her for some specific purpose, but she did not show up. She had a few temporary jobs but nothing stable or full-time. She did not appear to have financial problems, but debt collectors called my house looking for her. Her mother accused her of stealing from her, but Elizabeth had a plausible reason why that was untrue. She used my identity for purchases. She drove a luxury car that she could not possibly afford, had nice clothes, ate at the best restaurants in town, lived a party lifestyle in Austin’s clubs, had friends from and in the club scene, all with no visible means of support and no steady, well-paying employment that would finance this rock star lifestyle. Through it all she told me, “Dad, I do not even go out anymore.” Mark was certain that she was using drugs from her appearance and behavior, but none of us could get past her denials.
Sometime in 2009, the world began crashing down on Elizabeth. She had lived a carefree and irresponsible life without meaningful consequences thus far, but that idyllic period was about to end. One Sunday afternoon, I was watching the Astros on television, and my cell phone rang. The caller was a bail bondsman’s employee, and she asked if I was Elizabeth’s father. After I said I was, the caller informed me that my daughter had been arrested on a drug charge and was in jail, but that if I would agree to pay $1300, she would be released on bail. I asked if the money was refundable. The caller said that it was not. I thought for a brief moment, replied “No. Jail is probably where she needs to be,” and returned to watching the game. Some may think my response was insensitive and callous or perhaps unloving, but I decided at that moment, damn it, my failure to enforce rules and to provide consequences for misbehavior had contributed to her present predicament, and it was time for her to learn that bad acts have bad consequences.
Elizabeth obtained her release on a personal recognizance bond and was livid at my refusal to put up bail money. She and I had a brief period of true estrangement because I had no sympathy whatsoever for her plight and no remorse for not throwing good money after bad to bail her out of jail. Consequences, Sweetheart, consequences. She, of course, had many excuses why this arrest was a trumped-up charge, but through connections I had developed by prior service as a Travis County Grand Jury foreman, I learned that she had 20 grams of cocaine in her purse in baggies, obviously for distribution.
Astros – Escalona and Weiland are out for the season. Castro and Lowrie are on the 15-day DL. Astros’ bats are terminal and on life support.
Pirates – Charlie Morton is out for the season. Gustavo Nunez is on the 60-day DL. Juan Cruz is on the 15-day DL. Who cares?
Elizabeth faced serious prison time in the state penal system, but because this was her first offense, she received deferred adjudication and five years probation. If she completed the probation successfully, the charge would be dismissed, and she could deny ever being arrested for it. We had lunch the day she was sentenced to probation, and I asked her if she knew how lucky she was. I emphasized how important it was that she do nothing wrong during those five years, and she assured me that she understood completely. I believed her because I thought she knew that the Texas Department of Corrections does not offer pleasant places to live.
Fast forward to sometime during the summer of 2010. Elizabeth called me on a Sunday afternoon and said, “Dad, I’m scared.” I asked why, and she told me that she had been interviewed by “the FBI” and that “they know everything I have been doing.” My blood ran cold, and I said “Elizabeth, whatever you are doing, stop it immediately. The feds do not fuck around with drug offenses.” She swore to me that she had stopped. Her interrogators were members of a law enforcement task force investigating major drug crimes in Austin.
My advice was, of course, much too late to do her any good. The Prince Charming boyfriend from a great family, with whom she had been living, was a drug dealer. He introduced Elizabeth to some very bad people who were big-time cocaine dealers and who were large blips on the task force’s radar. By her association and cooperation with these dealers, Elizabeth became a blip on the radar as well. Her need for drugs and money overcame any reluctance she had for criminal behavior and obliterated any good judgment she still possessed.
A federal grand jury in Austin indicted Elizabeth on charges of being a member of a conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Federal conspiracy law considers each member criminally responsible for the acts of all other members of the conspiracy if he or she commits a single act in furtherance of the conspiracy. Elizabeth undeniably did: twice she walked money from a car into an Austin upscale restaurant, exchanged the money for cocaine from the bartender, and walked the drugs back to the person waiting in the car for the delivery. That these two acts were relatively minor in the overall scheme and actions of the conspirators makes no difference to federal conspiracy law. Elizabeth, by those two overt acts, became responsible not only for the actions of all of the other conspirators but also for the quantity of cocaine involved in the overall operation.
Federal drug laws are very tough and carry long sentences. Her indictment was for a crime carrying a possible sentence of ten years to life. I refused to believe that she would receive this sort of sentence for a first offense in the federal system, but her criminal behavior occurred during her state court probation, and she also faced the probability of revocation of the probation and of receiving a five-year sentence in the Texas Department of Corrections. That would be much worse than federal incarceration.
I called a lawyer friend who I had known since junior high school, and he agreed to represent her. He is an excellent, not flamboyant, well-respected criminal defense attorney who has vast experience in the federal system. When Elizabeth initially was interrogated by law enforcement officers, she admitted her crimes and agreed to cooperate with them. She told them what she knew, and she agreed to allow law enforcement to put her back into the criminal world to buy drugs from persons who were under surveillance. She made several of these buys with officers nearby.
Cooperation with law enforcement put Elizabeth in harm’s way repeatedly. She agreed to risk this danger with no assistance of counsel and with no enforceable promise of leniency in return for her cooperation. I was terrified, and when I asked her why she risked her life with nothing in return, she replied, “I wanted to show them I am not the person they think I am.” She later testified in the federal trial of the primary drug dealer in her conspiracy and helped the United States Attorney secure a conviction and a long prison sentence. Her attorney believed her cooperation might help her at her own sentencing, but the United States Attorney prosecutor, who is a long-time friend, was playing hardball. He believed that Elizabeth was a major player in the conspiracy and wanted her to receive a stiff sentence. She had pleaded guilty and had cooperated courageously, but realistic prospects for her sentencing appeared dismal.
Prior to Elizabeth’s federal indictment, her attorney had arranged to surrender her to custody briefly and then to obtain her release without need for a bond. When she arrived at his office after the indictment, she told him she could not go to court because she had “used” crystal meth the day before and her urinalysis would be “dirty.” Her attorney showed her no mercy. He told her she was most certainly going to appear in court that day, and he asked her if she was willing to admit her addiction in open court and to request an in-patient rehab program. She told him she was willing to do that, and a path to redemption opened slightly to her. The path was steeply uphill with many obstacles because Elizabeth was using crystal meth every day. Her addiction eventually would have killed her.
After her appearance, the Court ordered her to go to the federal in-patient drug rehab program in Waco, but that program was counselor-based and had no Twelve Steps component. Because of her diabetes, for which the program inexplicably was unprepared, she received a medical discharge a few days short of completing the program. My observation was that the Waco program had no appreciable effect on her or on her attitudes. She seemed to be angry, sullen and unreconstructed upon her return to Austin. She told me she would kill herself if she received a prison sentence.
From there, however, she entered the in-patient program at Austin Recovery Center, and this program turned Elizabeth’s life around. At Austin Recovery, the path to redemption opened wide to her. She embraced the Twelve Steps approach, worked the Steps and emerged from this program a completely different person from the person who entered it. The counselors selected her as the outstanding “graduate” of her unit, and she delivered an impressive extemporaneous speech at the ceremony. I was skeptical and watched carefully for “programspeak” or for anger, resentment or blame for having been put into rehab. I saw none of that, and when she left Austin Recovery, Elizabeth voluntarily chose to live in a “sober home,” which had curfews, locked doors, random drug tests and strict rules that would lead to expulsion if violated. Soon her progress was sufficient for the off-site house manager to appoint her to be “house mother” with supervisory duties over the other residents. She attended AA and NA meetings regularly. These changes were very positive, but her federal sentencing hearing still awaited her.
Sentencing was scheduled for December 3, 2010, which was the 16th anniversary of my Dad’s death. Because of her cooperation and other nuances of federal sentencing guidelines and her attorney’s advocacy skills, the prosecutor agreed to recommend “only” 33 months in prison, but he refused to reduce his recommendation further. Elizabeth’s attorney advised me that Judge Sam Sparks, before whom I had practiced and who is a tough sentencer, likely would accept the United States Attorney’s recommendation, although the Judge had the discretion to sentence her to less. Her attorney thought there was no chance she would receive less than a 33 months sentence.
At sentencing, Elizabeth addressed Judge Sparks, and I was proud of her. She asked for leniency, of course, and for home confinement, not prison, but she accepted full responsibility for her actions and apologized to the Court for them. Her attorney spoke effectively and well to the Court, and then it was my turn. I do a lot of public speaking in my job, and I was never better than I was that day. My theme was gratitude: the criminal justice system saved Elizabeth’s life, Austin Recovery Center turned her life around, and Elizabeth’s changes restored her life. I too asked for home confinement, knowing full well that the Judge would not agree, and I asked the Court to take into consideration her courageous cooperation with law enforcement and the voluntary changes she had made through Austin Recovery Center and by the Grace of God. I sat down thinking I had done the best I could do but certain that she would be sentenced to 33 months.
Elizabeth stood before the Court to receive her sentence. Judge Sparks made some preliminary remarks, and then he spoke directly to her. He thanked her for her frankness, and he told her that although he would like to grant her request for home confinement, he could not do so and be consistent in sentencing other defendants. He told her that she had done very bad acts and that she should have serious consequences for them. Then he said “I sentence you to 12 months . . .,” and I did not hear the rest of his remarks. I immediately asked my wife, “Did he say only 12 months?” Elizabeth looked at me and began crying, but her attorney and I were ecstatic. Only 12 months, not 33, and she would be in Fort Worth at a women’s medical unit because of her diabetes. I could see her every week, and she would be home in a year or perhaps less. Judge Sparks exercised his discretion to be merciful, and he gave Elizabeth a major break for which she and I are thankful. Months later we both told him how grateful we are. Judge Sparks offered her a second chance at her life and told her he never wanted to see her in his courtroom again.
Elizabeth began her sentence in January of 2011. For me, Elizabeth’s time in Fort Worth went fairly quickly, and I visited her each week on Saturday or Sunday. No doubt it did not go so quickly for her, but she was upbeat and positive during our weekly visits, and she had many funny stories to share. During moments of fear or despair, she recited the Serenity Prayer over and over to reconnect with God. She displayed no anger or resentment for being there, and she did not blame others. Our visits were fun, but each goodbye was very sad. She says she will write a book about her experiences, and I hope that she does. A beneficial aspect of her confinement was that Elizabeth, who probably never even read much in a textbook, became a voracious reader to pass the time. She devoured books and kept asking for more. Silver linings in dark clouds indeed!
After six months at the women’s unit in Fort Worth, Elizabeth moved to a halfway house in Austin and was scheduled to move to home confinement with her mom in mid-December to finish her sentence. The advantage to the halfway house, although it was incarceration, was that she could get a job and leave for her work hours. She also could get weekend passes and live normally at her mother’s home, but she had to return by curfew with no excuses. The disadvantage to this halfway house was that it was a Texas Department of Corrections facility, and it made the federal prison in Fort Worth appear to be a Ritz Carlton by comparison. There were more than 90 men and fewer than 10 women. It was a very rough place, but she only had a few months left to serve. She sought psychiatric counseling, took prescribed meds for depression and ADHD and worked her recovery by attending AA meetings. She had a job waiting tables at a downtown restaurant and was happy and enjoying her job.
Almost all aspects of Elizabeth’s legal problems and subsequent incarceration were positive events because, as a result, she admitted an addiction, became clean and sober, took full responsibility for her actions, remained upbeat about her life while incarcerated, and was ready to become a productive citizen after release, perhaps for the first time in her life. What happened to her at the halfway house in early December, however, with barely a month to go on her sentence and only a week to go before home confinement, would have broken many people.
Her psychiatrist in November prescribed Adderall for her ADHD, and Elizabeth turned in the prescription and the pills to the halfway house personnel as she was required to do. Residents were not allowed to have insulin, medications or pills in their rooms, and halfway house personnel dispensed the prescribed medication to her and recorded dispensing the medication on a daily log. Despite the prescription and the medication logs, the Assistant Director of the halfway house, for reasons known only to her, reported Elizabeth to the federal Bureau of Prisons for having amphetamines in her urine with no medical explanation for the positive test. Her prescribed Adderall, dispensed to her and recorded in a medication log by halfway house personnel, is an amphetamine, and the prescription for ADHD was her medical explanation. Federal bureaucracy being what it is, the Bureau of Prisons never reviewed her discipline case, and she served the remaining six weeks of her sentence in a maximum security cell in the Bastrop County Jail. She lost her job because of this unjust confinement, she missed serving out her sentence at her mother’s house, and she missed Christmas with her family. This dishonest act was an egregious abuse of power, and I worried that this unconscionable treatment would destroy all of the positive gains she had made.
Following completion of her sentence in January of 2012, Elizabeth went back into society and began rebuilding her life. She works in outside sales, and she thinks that she has discovered her calling. She attends AA and NA meetings and works the Steps. Through deft lawyering, her state court probation was not revoked; thus, she sees two probation officers and is subject to random drug testing. Elizabeth tells me that everything happens for a reason and that change can come only after one accepts complete responsibility for one’s actions. Her sincere belief is that she would not be the person she is now if she had not experienced the ordeal that she did. She knows exactly how many days she has been clean and sober. She is an addict in recovery and is committed to sobriety.
Has Elizabeth truly changed? Read her words from a letter she wrote to me during her darkest days at the Bastrop County Jail in late December of 2011:
I have been sitting here thinking about this past year and I have to tell you I wouldn’t change a thing. I thought when I caught my federal case, my life was over. Really it saved my life. You are a wonderful father and I respect you so much. . . . I have caused so many problems for you in the past. I regret putting you through everything and will work as hard as I can for the rest of my life to make it up to you . . . . I love you Dad and I want you to know that you never failed me as a father. I chose the path I went down and it had nothing to do with your parenting skills. With all the mistakes I have made, they turned me into the person I am today.
Elizabeth has made significant personal changes following her release. She strives to be successful in her job through hard work. Family once again is of paramount importance to her, and she calls me several times each week just to chat or to check on me. She is loving, attentive and loyal. She is on time for personal and business appointments and is responsible with her money and her bills. She does not forget holidays or special occasions. She has an active and fun social life without alcohol or drugs and without Austin’s clubs. Her close friends are good role models who are honest and hard-working young women. She does her required community service enthusiastically and looks for other opportunities to serve others. Freedom is precious to Elizabeth, and she savors each moment of her second chance at life.
If asked, Elizabeth will say that her recovery is absolutely one day at a time. She now sparkles with happiness and confidence, and she looks forward to each new day with bright-eyed wonder and excitement. She speaks openly and honestly about her experiences and soon will be speaking about them to groups of recovering addicts. She has been clean and sober for 759 days as I write this. She likes herself and who she is for the first time in her life. I believe she will triumph over her past, and she has become the person I always hoped she would be. Elizabeth makes me proud every single moment of her life.
Sometime during her incarceration in Fort Worth, Elizabeth told me about one day driving away from her apartment after getting high on meth. She said her sunroof was open, and she looked up through it and cried, “God, I cannot live like this any longer. I cannot do this on my own. Please make something happen to get me out of this.” Two weeks later, police officers detained her for questioning, and Elizabeth believes steadfastly that God sent those officers to save her. So do I.
Demons possessed my sweet daughter long ago, and she left us to walk with them. Elizabeth was lost to me and to herself. Slowly but inexorably, she moved into their world, resisting at times but never strong enough to leave. Bravely but foolishly, Elizabeth followed her demons toward her destruction and the abyss. At the brink, redemption imprisoned her and offered freedom from her demons. Powerless and serene, she opened her heart to redemption and was saved. Elizabeth lived for many years in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but now, praise God, she followed her path to redemption back home.
God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
Courage to change the things we can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
Follow the game and the brilliant commentary in the Game Zone.